Sermons from St Faith's     

Living on the Edge
Brenda Cottarel,  Sunday, November 19th, 2015

Sermon: Mark 13: 1-8

Three years ago we went to Seattle, my first time in the USA and my first experience of a Baseball match, I remember one of the advertising slogans for the game “We can sell you a whole seat for the game but you’ll only need the edge” for me that conjured up excitement, enthusiasm and expectation.

Is that what we think sitting on the edge of our seat means? The adrenaline rush, pulse and heart beating against the inside the inside of your chest?

Most of us don’t live on the edge. We occasionally sit on the edge but as time goes by we inevitably grow comfortable and secure in our lives. Indeed if we don’t have that sense of  security and comfort we do what we can to get it. In truth we can’t live with constant adrenaline rushes and heightened heart rates. We would wear out. The body could not take it. Living on the edge can be dangerous and that’s why we seek it in small doses, if at all.

The Gospel reading today from St Mark is guaranteed to raise the pulse rate a bit. Jesus begins to tell the disciples about the signs of the end of the world. This entire chapter has been called Marks mini-apocalypse. It is reminiscent of the book of
Revelation which is a classic example of Christian apocalyptic writing. Apocalyptic literature was a special kind of writing at that time. It dealt with clever and meaningful ways of looking at the end of the world using imagery, powerful wild imagery, that painted fantastic word pictures.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus responds to a comment from the disciples about how magnificent the temple is and big the stones are. Jesus looks past the building to a time when it would be destroyed. Indeed the temple was destroyed within a generation of Jesus speaking these words. All of this chapter focuses on symbols and words that show how the end of the world will happen, wars, kingdom against kingdom, famine, earthquakes.

Jesus does not tell the disciples this to pinpoint a date. He doesn’t give them a head start so they can get their affairs in order and it wasn’t to let them gloat if it happened in their lifetime so they could say “we told you so”

Actually with the exception of the destruction of the Temple, none of the disciples saw the things Jesus predicted would usher in the end of the world. We are still waiting 2000 years later.

The point Jesus was making was to be watchful… prepared…… persevere in the midst of struggles to come. Soon there would be times when Christians believed that the end was near. Within a decade or two nearly all of the twelve apostles were dead... mostly as martyrs. Within a generation persecution would seek to destroy the Christian church, even as the Temple was destroyed.

The end of the world didn’t come but threats to destroy the Christian church and bring about the end of faith were on the horizon. The key was to be alert….be prepared and persevere. Believers had to dig deep to continue to be enthusiastic and energetic about a faith that could, and did for some, cost them their lives. Things were not easy for the early Christians, their own end could come at any time. Soon, they were living on the edge. Danger gave an edginess to their lives. Their faith
would have to persevere in times when it would be easier to give up and give in to the pressures that opposed the Christian God.

After the resurrection when the church was up and running many of the Christians believed that Christ would return before they died, they lived in expectation with energy and enthusiasm… they lived on the edge, because they believed they would see the second coming, I doubt their adrenaline and heart rate stayed locked in high octane mode but they lived on the edge, they lived with an attitude that remained focused on the Lord day in and day out.

Can you remember the last months of 1999? Some people thought that the New Year, the turn of the century would bring about the end of the world the year 2000 was anticipated with a cautious mix of excitement and foreboding. As the clock struck 12 and we moved from 1999 to 2000 nothing special happened, even the computers took things in their stride. I was working that night and we been told to prepare with candles, torches and buckets filled with fresh water and a long list of phone numbers …just in case. Nothing happened.

I remember reading that church attendance had risen in the last few months of 1999, (I haven’t checked St Faith' numbers yet but I will.) Because people wanted to make sure their affairs were in order with God...just in case. There was a buzz an energy an edge to the last few day of1999. Nothing happened - things soon returned to normal.

I bet it’s been 15 years since most of us have thought about the end of the world but I wonder if living on the edge might not be an important question for us as Christians? I’m not talking about panicked living as we try to categorize how world affairs are pointing to the end of the world, I’m talking about the edginess of stress and busyness of life that takes up so much of our energy.

The edge I’m talking about is what the first Christians had. The edge that came from listening to Jesus and being prepared to watch be alert and persevere in faith.

We seek comfort and security but such things can be very hard on faith. We can actually find our faith too comfortable too secure. Faith needs to have an edginess to it. It has to be energized. It has to express itself with enthusiasm.
A comfortable faith in a comfortable church leading to a comfortable life trying to make sure that our part of the world stays comfortable was not what Jesus had in mind for 1st century or 21st century Christians

I suspect that the world will not end for a long time but who can say? Or who can know that tomorrow is not promised to them. The end of my world or yours may be just around the corner.

Without being maudlin about the truth can we not use it to do some stocktaking of our lives and our faith? Can we not seek to put our affairs in order? our attitudes to our faith and each other. Can we not accept the challenge from Jesus to live our lives and faith with alertness, perseverance and enthusiasm?

If we knew our lives were coming to an end soon we would have an edginess to living. As sad as it would be, we would have the gift of putting our affairs in order with God and with our families and friends. Living out our faith on the edge can make an incredible difference to the way we serve God and each other and the way we live our lives.

I want to finish with this anonymous poem I found.

When the last hungry person is fed
And the homeless are put to bed
When the crying child is stilled
And the cupboards of the poor are filled
When the Gospel of God has been preached
To the last, the lost, the least
When sad broken hearts have been mended
And sin and crime are all ended
When Christ rules the hearts of all men
And the earth is a little like heaven
Then why, then can we sit idly by
Wait in peace for our home in the sky
But while sin, death and want are around us
And evil forces surround us
God give us the grace to attack it
And keep everlastingly at it.

Lots left to do!

Living life on the edge reminds how to do it



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